Following weeks of successful beta testing, the PokerStars VR virtual reality poker game has gone live across the site’s global markets.
PokerStars invited 150 insiders and industry experts to beta test the virtual reality platform on September 20, a trial run which provided valuable proof of concept. Last week, PokerStars VR launched on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam VR virtual reality networks.
Severin Rasset – who serves as director of poker innovation and operations for PokerStars – issued a press release outlining the company’s vision for virtual reality poker:
“When we showcased the product it was amazing to see people really enjoy and become engrossed in the game.
We wanted to venture into the world of virtual reality because we believe it is an exciting avenue of technology to explore and something that our players would appreciate.
I highly recommend that everyone tries out the game as it can only truly be understood and enjoyed by experiencing it.”
Players participating in a PokerStars VR game are treated to a three-dimensional immersive experience centered around the poker table.
Chips and cards can be physically manipulated – along with cocktails, tableside means, and other casino accoutrements – while players communicate with one another in real time using voice commands and gestures. PokerStars published a brief video preview of the game to YouTube, showing off an array of unique avatars, animations, and other features.
PokerStars VR is only available as a free-to-play social game, so players can’t wager real money a la the site’s primary online poker products. But per comments made by Rasset ahead of the beta testing phase, virtual reality poker was designed to offer entertainment value rather than economic incentive:
“PokerStars VR is a chance for us to take this amazing technology and bring something totally unique to poker players.
Poker is about interaction. It’s been bringing people together for well over a century.
We’re really excited to invest in the next generation of the game and to give players the opportunity to meet in a brand new virtual reality dimension.”
Rasset also told industry news outlet PokerFuse that organic social interaction, combined with virtual reality immersion, tends to create an environment in which players approach poker situations the same way they would with real money at risk:
“A major component unique to the VR environment is that players have greater opportunity to interact socially through gestures and voice chat, and by sitting down together in a virtual reality-enhanced environment.
Based on our first tests, it seems this social component triggers a greater degree of authentic play.”
While the company remains tightlipped about potential real money integration, the free-play PokerStars VR game – developed by software designer Lucky VR – can be downloaded via Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam VR.
The arrival of PokerStars VR comes only days after another new product vertical, dubbed Fusion Poker, hit the market.
Fusion Poker blends the two most popular variants of the game, Texas Hold’em and Omaha, to create an entirely new gameplay experience. Players begin with two hole cards as in Hold’em, but receive third and fourth hole cards after the flop and turn, respectively, to follow Omaha’s lead.
The global online poker leader is no stranger to experimenting with base games, as Fusion Poker followed the release of Unfold Hold’em in early August.
PokerStars VR isn’t expected to compete with real money products like Fusion Poker or Unfold Hold’em, but as sponsored Team Pro Jaime Staples stated after taking part in beta testing, virtual reality poker is meant for the masses:
“It’s not going to appeal to the grinders that typically are playing six to eight tables, but it’s going to appeal to pretty much everyone else.
It’s a broader way of playing poker, it’s a richer experience. I think everyone from who’ve never played before to who enjoy playing for play money with their friends, will love it.”